Libertarians Call for Independent Investigation Into Flint Water Crisis, “All levels of government were responsible”

Press Release from the Libertarian Party of Michigan:

Libertarians Call for Independent Investigation

It has been stated that the Flint Water Crisis is Governor Snyder’s Katrina. Hurricanes are natural disasters though, which can be predicted and reaction plans can be formulated. Preparations could have been made to mediate the damage, but the hurricane could not have been avoided. That is not the case in Flint, MI. There is nothing natural about the water crisis and it was completely avoidable.

There is plenty of blame to go around, as detailed in numerous articles. There were several areas over the years where all levels of government were responsible for decisions that lead to this disaster. The Flint City Council voted to leave the Detroit Water system and use Flint River water until a new source was ready, and the emergency manager approved it. The Michigan DEQ was inadequate in addressing the situation in a timely manner. A federal EPA employee sounded the alarm, but the only official agency response was further dialogue with the DEQ.

What is apparent is the government at every level failed to protect the public. It took people outside of the government to prove what was going on. And yet, the answer is to bring in the Federal Government, who already knew about the situation and did nothing, and the National Guard to help remediate the problem. Will maintaining government control of water fix the problem when the government let this happen in the first place? Would private companies have done better? Maybe not, but at least they are held more accountable. They would be more inclined to provide better service because you could leave them and go elsewhere. Leaving government utility programs is not easy, as there are few other options.

It is time we begin having a more accountable system of services in all aspects of programs offered by the government. This can be done through the free market. Edwardsville Water Corporation of Georgetown, Indiana is one example of a private company providing an alternative option to government controlled utility monopolies as they maintain a transparent reporting practice.

It would be outstanding if government were held to the same accountability as private industries but they are not. The government failed to provide safe water. Had a private company done this they would likely be facing financial retribution if not criminal charges. That is because an outside agency would be doing the investigation. If those companies went bankrupt only the owners and investors would suffer.

Government failures however affect everyone. Michigan is being sued by Flint residents. Any penalties awarded will come out of tax dollars from the state residents, including those residing in Flint. They will be paying for the damage caused by others. Will government officials be held accountable? Although the Attorney General is investigating, it is essentially an internal audit as one branch of the government is reviewing another. The federal EPA is also forming an investigation, but they had advanced warning of this also, and did nothing at the time. An independent review of the missteps in this debacle would be more credible.

The Libertarian Party of Michigan calls for an independent investigation of the events leading up to this public health crisis. Any officials found to be negligent should be fired and prosecuted, but unfortunately most have immunity from legal action.

10 thoughts on “Libertarians Call for Independent Investigation Into Flint Water Crisis, “All levels of government were responsible”

  1. Andy

    Libertarians calling for an independent investigation. Sounds like a bunch of “conspiracy theorist” talk to me. Can’t have this in Libertarian circles.

  2. Pingback: Libertarian Party of Michigan Chair Kim McCurry’s Statement on the Flint Water Crisis « Todd Andrew Barnett

  3. Andy Craig Post author

    Sounds like a bunch of “conspiracy theorist” talk to me.

    Only insofar as conspiracy theorists try to imitate real-world politics.

  4. Starchild

    Good job by the Michigan LP on this press release. It correctly identifies what needs to happen in order for justice to be served – an independent investigation, with responsible officials losing their jobs, and being held individually accountable, not the taxpayers being hit with the bill for lawsuits against the city and state governments and the EPA.

    One branch of government investigating another is indeed asking for a whitewash, because all levels were guilty of helping perpetrate or cover up the poisoned water scandal. Shikha Dalmia details this in an op-ed piece at Reason – https://reason.com/blog/2016/01/22/flint-lead-poisoning-the-anatomy-governm . Here is her description of how the State systemically failed the people of Flint:

    The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, the state agency that is responsible for implementing federal EPA environmental standards and ensure water standards, ignored citizen concerns that there was something wrong with the water they were getting from the new Flint River water system. The city had temporarily switched to this system after deciding against renewing a 30-year contract with its existing supplier, the Detroit Water and Sewage Department that wanted Flint to pay higher rates and more stranded costs. (This was like asking someone who is struggling to prevent the roof on his/her house from collapsing to pay for a lavish home insurance policy.)

    The EPA required the DEQ to perform a faulty test to measure water quality that totally failed to catch the problem. That’s not all that the EPA did wrong, however. Even after it realized that the DEQ wasn’t taking a simple step necessary to prevent lead poisoning – namely adding phosphorous – it did absolutely nothing. It didn’t go public with this information; it didn’t warn residents that they should take steps to protect themselves. It basically fiddled as Flint residents were getting poisoned. What’s even more infuriating? It would have cost less than $50,000 annually to add the phosphorous.

    The local mayor was even worse than the EPA. If the EPA passively allowed residents to poison themselves, the mayor actively encouraged them to do so. He told them that there was nothing wrong with the water and they’d be wasting their “precious” money by buying bottled water. This, incidentally, was after GM stopped using this water because it was corroding auto parts.

    The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services dismissed tests showing a spike in lead levels in blood tests of local residents after the switch to Flint River as a “seasonal anomaly.”

    Robby Soave, also writing at Reason (https://reason.com/blog/2016/01/21/the-government-poisoned-flints-waterso-s), makes another point that is key to understanding how hundreds of mostly poor, African-American residents of Flint came to be lead poisoned by “their” government:

    …let’s not forget the reason why local authorities felt the need to find a cheaper water source: Flint is broke and its desperately poor citizens can’t afford higher taxes to pay the pensions of city government retirees. As recently as 2011, it would have cost every person in Flint $10,000 each to cover the unfunded legacy costs of the city’s public employees.

  5. Steve

    Whatever. This crisis was caused by years of liberatrian-friendly free market reforms. They just want to spin things to minimize the PR damage to their idiotic political philosophies.

  6. steve m

    http://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/2015/10/10/missed-opportunities-flint-water-crisis/73688428/

    From the Detroit Free Press:

    Water woes began shortly after switch from Detroit

    Flint began using Flint River water as its main supply in April 2014. Before that, it bought Lake Huron water that was treated and delivered by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department. Detroit ended that deal one day after Flint voted to join Genesee County in forming the Karegnondi Water Authority, which plans to build its own Lake Huron intake and pipe the water to the Flint Water Plant.

    Flint officials wanted to remain on Detroit’s system, but the two sides couldn’t agree on a price and a contract length.

    Once the switch to river water was made, the city, which was operating under a state-appointed emergency financial manager, faced one problem after another. Residents packed city council meetings and held protest marches to voice their anger about water quality.

    Experts say Flint’s lead problems could have been held in check if the city had added phosphates to the water, as Detroit has done for years. The treatment doesn’t eliminate lead entirely, but it does form a film over the pipes themselves, effectively sealing in the lead and reducing the amount in the water to acceptable levels.

    But when Flint switched to river water, it didn’t add phosphates. Instead it added lime to soften the water.

    “The lime softening process has the added benefit of some corrosion control,” said Liane Smith, chief of Michigan’s Office of Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance.

    Smith said that once the switch was made, the state began testing for lead and copper, as is required by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

    Any new supply that comes along has to do two six-month rounds of monitoring for lead and copper out in their distribution system,” Smith said. If those tests show corrosion, additional steps, such as perhaps adding phosphates, are supposed to be followed.

    The first round of testing completed in December 2014 showed lead levels of 6 parts per billion. The second round, completed in June of this year, showed they had almost doubled to 11 parts per billion. The EPA requires a remediation plan when levels reach 15 parts per billion and can demand action even below that mark on systems that serve more than 50,000 people.

  7. steve m

    reason.com/blog/2016/01/25/the-flint-water-crisis-is-the-result-of

    Documents that have just resurfaced show that the then DWSD Director Susan McCormick presented two alternatives to Emergency Manager Ed Kurtz that slashed rates for Flint by nearly 50 percent, something that made Detroit far more competitive compared to the KWA deal. “The cliff notes version,” she said in an internal e-mail to her staff, is that the “proposal offers a today rate of water for Flint/Genesee of $10.46 as compared to $20.00 paid currently per Mcf—48% less that could be realized nearly immediately and even more when compared to the increases coming with KWA.” In fact, when compared over the 30-year horizon, the DWSD proposal saves $800 million or 20% over the KWA proposal, she pointed out.

    That works out to over $26 million in annual savings for a city in precarious financial shape.

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